Ila Watson held her head in her hands and cried after hearing the man responsible for running down and killing her husband Brian in 2016 was not criminally responsible for his actions.
“I’m speechless at this point — very sad,” Ila Watson told KTW at the Kamloops Law Courts on Friday.
Ila Watson and many friends and family spoke of disappointment and disbelief after hearing Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley’s verdict accepting the defence of not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder (NCRMD).
“I can’t believe it,” said John Osborne, a friend and work colleague of Brian Watson, who was employed by the Kamloops-Thompson school district as a facilities painter. “Brian was such a good man.”
Raymond Edward Swann, 58, admitted in court that he was behind the wheel of a truck that struck and killed Watson outside Chase nearly three years ago. Watson, 60, was killed on April 3, 2016, while riding his motorcycle on Squilax-Anglemont Road when Swann’s truck hit Watson from behind.
“It’s just a shame to lose such a good person tragically this way. He didn’t deserve that,” Ila Watson said, fighting back tears.
Swann was facing charges of criminal negligence causing death. His lawyer, Ken Walker, argued he had a disease of the mind at the time Watson was killed and should undergo treatment rather than spend time in prison.
At the core of the case, Dley said, was whether Swann was suffering from a confused state of mind as a result of sleep deprivation and use of or withdrawal from drugs, or if he had an underlying mental disorder.
If under a self-induced state, the NCRMD defence would not apply.
Though court heard Swann smoked two marijuana joints on the day of the crash, had stopped taking methadone and had been experiencing sleep deprivation, Dley said expert testimony of a doctor who had prescribed Swann methadone was “crucial” as it ruled out those external factors as causes of Swann’s psychosis.
Psychiatrists who examined Swann agreed he was not in his usual mental state, but disagreed on the cause.
Dley relied on testimony from a doctor who had provided ongoing treatment in determining Swann was suffering from some type of mental disorder. Dley accepted that Swann thought he had been hearing voices and feared for his life, noting actions such as throwing his and his wife’s cellphones into the bush just before the crash, out of fear of being tracked, as “unmistakable signs of thought disorder and hallucination.”
“The next question is whether the mental disorder rendered Mr. Swann incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act,” Dley said.
On the day of the crash, Swann abruptly left a friend’s house, at which he and his wife had arrived in separate cars, court heard.
Swann began driving erratically and his wife attempted to catch up to him. When she passed by the crashed motorcycle, she was worried Swann had been involved. After catching up to him, she saw damage to his truck and told him he had hit someone.
Swann later called police and told them to arrest him, said he had lost his mind and that all he remembered was hearing a thump followed by a flash of red and black. He also claimed at one point to have acted in self-defence, running over someone he thought was a hitman.
“Some of his comments make sense, others are beyond reason,” Dley said, adding that Swann’s comments must be taken into context with his ever-changing mental condition.
Dley found Swann’s acknowledgement that running into another motorist was unlawful wasn’t determinative because his recollection of the incident was influenced by what he was told of it afterwards.
“I conclude that Mr. Swann’s recall of the event was limited to a thump and a flash of red and black,” Dley said.
Swann was motionless as the verdict was read in court. He has been out on bail and will remain under those conditions until at least his next court date on Feb. 11.
A finding of NCRMD will result in a review board conducting an assessment of the accused and determining treatment of his mental disorder.